Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Religion and Morality: Clergy Sex Scandals

First, I would like to state that this post is most unequivocally not an attempt to equate pedophilia with homosexuality.  Rather, it is based in part on the assumption that pedophiles will prefer either members of the same sex or members of the opposite sex--as do adults who are not attracted to children.

I have mentioned before that I suspect the moral danger many theists fear most is their repressed homosexuality or bisexuality.  Like most people, I have noticed the prevalence of clergy sex scandals involving homosexual conduct.  I began to wonder if these cases might not prove or disprove my suspicions in that regard.  I was unable to find a study analyzing such cases along those lines, so I began to read through the stories myself.

At the website listed below I found a nearly exhaustive list of links to news items reporting on clergy scandals, mostly sexual in nature.  The list was far too long to read them all, so I engaged in a random sampling.  I clicked on 25 links at random in an effort to see how often the allegations involved homosexual conduct.

Some of the random selections gave no details of the misconduct or dealt with misconduct that was not sexual--at least not directly.  (Several were cases of embezzlement from the church.  But one truly outrageous story dealt with comments made by a Catholic Bishop accusing the victims of priestly pedophilia of "asking for it").  So, I chose an equal number to replace those in my sample in an effort to determine the approximate percentage of such scandals that stem from homosexual conduct.

Of course, the majority of such cases dealt with underage victims.  Cases in which clergy have affairs with adults don't tend to make the news unless some other more egregious conduct is involved.  Only one of the 25 involved sex with an adult, but it made the news because that particular priest had sex with not just the 18 year old girl but also her underage sister.  That case was also one of the few involving heterosexual conduct.

Of the 25 cases, only 8 involved heterosexual misconduct.  That means that the other 17, or approximately 70%, involved homosexual conduct.  At least two of those, however, involved multiple abusers.  One involved 10 clergymen, the other 4.  Thus, the total number of abusers in these stories was actually 37, of whom only 8 were not accused of homosexual conduct.  This suggests that the rate of homosexuality or bisexuality in the clergy is as high as 78%.  This is far in excess of the rates of homosexuality previously found in other studies of the general population.

It is difficult to accurately gauge the incidence of homosexuality in the general population.  In exit polls after recent U.S. elections a consistent 4% of respondent's self-identified as homosexual.  I think it safe to say that under the circumstances some respondents would not be willing to tell the truth to a pollster at the polling place in their neighborhood.  Thus, the 4% number is probably too low.  Other studies have suggested that the number could be as high as 20%.  Kinsey and others have suggested that some latent bisexuality may exist in more than 40% of the population.

Now, admittedly, the news stories themselves cannot constitute a purely random sampling of all such cases.  There are undoubtedly many factors that determine whether or not a particular case of clergy sex abuse makes the news, and I have no way of knowing how each of these cases came to light much less the number and type of cases that didn't come to light.

In a society where homosexuals allegedly make up only somewhere between 4 and 20% of the population, a rate of 78% is far out of proportion to what one might expect.  Either the clergy attracts homosexuals or there is a great deal more homosexuality or bisexuality in the general population than previously measured.  Or, maybe, it's a little bit of both.  Maybe there is a closeted cadre of bisexuals and homosexuals in excess of known percentages.  Maybe religion attracts or retains a greater proportion of those who are closeted bisexual or repressed homosexuals and have never sorted out their sexuality.

It's probably very difficult to sort out one's sexuality if you are gay or bisexual and raised in an environment where you are taught that your sexual inclinations are evil.  Knowledge of your repressed desires may lead to feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy.  Such a situation is guaranteed to lead to dishonesty.

If such a person fears he cannot control his repressed desires, then it might occur to him that the safest way to act on them would be to clothe himself with the vestments of an exalted office--an office which makes him the arbiter of truth and morality in his community.  If he cannot do that, then the next best thing would be to pose as a model parishioner.

All of this leads me to conclude that my suspicions probably were correct.  Religion often is a hiding place for those uncomfortable with their sexuality, and the pulpit especially so.  The shame of it all is that the discomfort of these tortured people was caused by religion itself.  (In the case of closeted homosexuals, because religion taught them to hate what they are; in the case of pedophiles, because their religion probably exposed them to molestation by a serial pedophile.)  Thus, once again, religion creates the demand for itself--like a drug dealer who gives free samples until the customer has developed a habit.

No comments:

Post a Comment